7 ways to drive a copywriter stark raving mad
There are all sorts of things to love about being a copywriter. It’s profitable. It can be low-stress. You have control over your schedule. You will enjoy variety in clients and projects.
But after many years of making a living writing copy, I have experienced a few things that I don’t love. Some are annoying, a few are exasperating, and one or two things have come close to making me snap.
Want to drive a copywriter mad? Here’s how to do it:
Call up a copywriter and, in a sincere voice, ask, “I have a really important project and I need a good copywriter. Can you recommend anyone?” Make sure there’s not even a hint of irony in your voice. If the copywriter reminds you that you’re talking to someone who writes copy, act confused as if that’s irrelevant. “What I’m looking for is, you know, a copywriter.”
Hire a copywriter for a project then proceed to explain how to write copy, because you just read a book about it. In fact, encourage the copywriter to buy the book and come up to speed on everything you know about copywriting and write copy just as the book describes. Because ” … the book is great. Just great. Awesome, in fact. Super awesome.”
Explain to a copywriter that your sales letter isn’t working. You have no clue what you’re doing and you need a professional to completely rewrite the letter. Then hire the copywriter and accept the copy submitted. Now, before you mail the letter, make lots of changes so it sounds more like the first letter, you know, the one that doesn’t work. Mail it. When it flops, call up the copywriter and complain that your results were terrible.
Ask a freelance copywriter to “tweak” an ad. Explain that the ad is lousy and isn’t working at all. But all you need is a “tweak.” Say you want the new ad to be completely different, and by completely different you mean you want the old ad “tweaked.” Don’t say “write a new ad,” or “overhaul the ad,” or even “revise the ad.” Keep using the word “tweak” and suggest that you don’t want to pay much even though you want an all new ad that works. Follow up with an email that uses the word “tweak” at least 3 times just to make sure the idea sinks in.
When you get copy from your copywriter, circulate it to your colleagues. Give them the copywriter’s email address and phone number so they can all independently critique the copy and provide contradictory comments. Make sure at least one of your colleagues thinks he’s a professional copywriter (because he wrote a paragraph for the company website) and will make wild and time-consuming requests like “Can you give me maybe 10 other versions of the headline?” or “How about we try a spin-off of ‘They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano’ just to see how it reads?”
Have your designer do a complete layout of a small brochure before thinking about copy. Then give the layout to your copywriter and say, “I just want you to fill in the blanks.” Make it clear that you want the copy to be short but still give details on the 137 products you offer, talk about the corporate mission, explain the year-end sale, and oh yeah, mention the new addition to the warehouse because that’s cool. “But again, keep the copy short. A couple or three paragraphs max. We don’t want to overload people with information.”
Lay down rigid rules for how your copywriter must work. Ask for at least 5 headlines then choose the worst one. Don’t let the copywriter change a word from this point forward. Then ask for subheads and lock them in. No changes. Then ask for body copy. Complain a little that the headline and subheads aren’t working well with the copy, but again, no changes. At the end of the project, tell the copywriter you really wish the project would have gone more smoothly and you think the copy could have been a little more polished.
99 percent of my clients are smart, flexible, and easy to work with. But there’s always that 1 percent who can drive you slowly insane. All these stories are true.
I know I’m not alone in this. How have people made you crazy during copywriting projects?